Zoo prepares for big cat removal; protests planned

Cheyenne, a 17-year-old female tiger, reacts as Robert Candy, owner of Tri-State Zoological Park, makes animal sounds during an open house held at the facility on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020. Cheyenne is one of three big cats removed from the zoo on Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020.

CUMBERLAND — The two tigers and a lion removed from the Tri-State Zoological Park on Christie Road have arrived at their new home in Colorado.

The big cats were tranquilized and placed in trucks early Wednesday morning for transport to the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg, Colorado. The animals were removed after the local zoo lost a court battle with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, who alleged the animals were living in squalid conditions.

The cats include a 17-year-old female tiger named Cheyenne, a 10-year-old male tiger named Mowgli, and Peka, an 8-year-old female lion. The animals had been at the Tri-State Zoological Park since they were kittens.

The Times-News phoned the Wild Animal Sanctuary on Friday afternoon. A staff member, who refused to identify herself or elaborate, would only say, “The cats arrived yesterday and are doing well.”

However, officials with the sanctuary in Colorado offered more details in a statement issued later Friday on Facebook.

“After being removed from a Maryland roadside zoo by court order, two tigers and one African lion arrived safe and sound at the Sanctuary yesterday. Like most court or law enforcement interventions, there is a great amount of emotional upheaval within the communities and/or organizations affected, which is understandable, but never helpful. Protesters tried to block entrances and exits, however, law enforcement helped ensure the animals were able to be rescued.

“Given there is an ongoing court case, and the agitators in Maryland have chosen to fabricate endless amounts of false information, which only creates further confusion for those who are sincerely interested in the welfare of the animals, we will not be releasing further details beyond the following: These three animals made the trip without complication and have already given, as well as received, ample amounts of affection both to and from their new caretakers. All are eating well and exploring their new home with great interest.”

Bob Candy, owner of the nonprofit Tri-State zoo, remains concerned.

“We made several calls and didn’t get an answer but as far as we know they arrived today (Friday) around 2:15 p.m.,” said Candy. “I still don’t know what kind of condition they're in. It’s stressful for the animals. They lived their entire life here. They wake up and don’t know where they are and any of the people. It’s very stressful for them.”

Candy held an open house on Jan. 11 for people to see the big cats and say their goodbyes. Many people attended the event, which the Times-News covered. Several protestors also showed up at the Tri-State zoo early Wednesday when the cats were being removed to demonstrate against PETA’s actions.

Candy said fighting well-financed entities like PETA is “almost impossible.”

“This has nothing to do with the animals,” said Candy. “The alternative is you give up and that is not me. I’ll keep going for the animals. You have to do things that are right.”

Candy said PETA posted signs at his zoo stating they intend to remove all the animals.

“Now they will petition to try to get all the animals,” said Candy. “They have really picked on us. They are going after 15 zoos. We don’t have the funds to fight, but we have filed court actions against them. We will keep fighting.”

Candy said a silver lining has been the outpouring of concern by the community.

“We are thankful for the support during this whole thing,” he said. “It’s been a rough road, but the outpouring has been amazing. It was hard for people to see them go. It is like losing your kids. People grew up with those cats now their gone.

“People are so supportive and many are now wanting to come out. They want to make it their zoo and make it better. People have made donations and they are offering to do some work. We want to spruce the zoo up. We have just made it through but people have been great. They want to help. I truly appreciate their support.”

Candy said people can message him on the zoo’s Facebook page for more information. Donations should be mailed to: Tri-State Zoological Park, 10105 Cottage Inn Lane NE, Cumberland, MD. 21502.

Follow staff writer Greg Larry on Twitter @GregLarryCTN.

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